A few months ago my partner changed jobs, but before he swapped one office for another we decided to take a short break so he could unwind and recharge. It was just a long weekend getaway, so we needed an easy to reach destination but one that would give us a feeling of escape and relaxation. After much hemming and hawing, we finally decided on a resort that met all of our requirements and so much more, the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island.
Located about thirty minutes north of Jacksonville, Florida, Amelia Island has a long reputation as a secluded getaway in the middle of Florida’s beautiful First Coast. We weren’t there for the history or nature activities though, we had one mission in mind and that was to relax. I’m happy to say that every expectation we had of the Ritz Carlton was matched and even exceeded.
Location and Hotel Property
The Ritz Carlton has a vaunted position on Amelia Island, offering easy beach access to its guests. If trekking past the sand dunes though isn’t for you, there are also three pools around which you can relax and just do nothing. The hotel property itself is older, but overall in good shape. Fortunately Ritz Carlton recently went through a massive update and now the interior design and aesthetics are at least modern, even if the exterior is a bit out of date. This isn’t a typical Ritz Carlton though, it’s one of their resort properties and it very much has that feel to it thanks to its size and the amenities offered.
As a resort, the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island welcomes many families on vacation, a fact that surprised me at first, even though it shouldn’t have. My experiences with Ritz Carlton prior to Amelia Island had been with their city hotels, where busy moguls and people of importance can be seen roaming the halls. Amelia Island is a bit more laid back though and instead of moguls, the typical guest was about two feet tall with swimmies. But this is the Ritz Carlton and don’t think for a minute that any element of service, luxury or comfort has been sacrificed – it hasn’t. Even though there were a lot of families, there were also other couples there on romantic retreats just as we were and the hotel did a masterful job of keeping both unique groups of guests happy and satisfied.
Ritz Carlton Touches
I’ve written about it before, but I believe the Club Level benefits at Ritz Carlton to be the best of any luxury hotel company. For an additional fee, guests get full access to this special lounge area that features multiple meals and snacks throughout the day as well as a special concierge service. Add to that complimentary WiFi and as many Diet Cokes as I could pocket, and you have the perfect Club Level. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch there everyday, which meant we could spend more time at the resort and save some money in the process. The staff in the lounge also helped me set up special moments, like S’Mores on the Beach, an activity unique to the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island. While I’ve never had a bad experience at any luxury hotel per se, there’s just something special about the Ritz Carlton. They take service to whole new levels and leave guests with the feeling that they’re special, no matter who they are or where they’re from.
I was a big fan of the food, not just in the Club Lounge but everywhere. I especially loved the fact that they offered options that weren’t too fussy. One evening we just wanted something simple and fast, so we visited the Ritz Carlton’s sports bar the Eight Burger Bar, a comfortable pub that specializes in expertly crafted burgers and fries. The meal was delicious with elements of fine dining thrown in and the prices were reasonable, something that honestly surprised me. No trip is complete though without at least one great dining experience, which we received at the hotel’s famous Salt restaurant.
From the very start of the meal, diners are presented with a variety of salts and encouraged to experiment with them throughout the meal. The tasting menu was simply stunning. Shrimp and grits with feta cheese, steak tartare done classically but beautifully and the entree was a play on steak and eggs: finely sliced wagyu beef and quail eggs served on a heated salt rock allowing guests the opportunity to cook their own meals. I’m not normally a fine dining kind of guy, but this experience made me reconsider that belief and it truly was the culinary highlight of our stay.
The trip was a success, even in spite of a few stumbles by the hotel. We had issues at check in and our bags went missing for a few hours, but these deficiencies were quickly and quietly taken care of by staff that honestly cared about my happiness. I would absolutely go back, not just for the beach and warm weather, but because I enjoyed the hotel itself and consider it as much a part of my relaxing stay as the breezes and sunsets.
Where are your favorite weekend getaway destinations?